In the latest episode of ‘Take Care’, a podcast that gives you insights into the lives and habits of changemakers, host Rishi Sharma speaks with “The DTC Guy”, Nik Sharma.
Nik Sharma, the former head of DTC at VaynerMedia, featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30. At 15, Nik worked on the social media team of Pitbull, Priyanka Sharma, MAGIC, and other celebrities. He is also the founder of Sharma Brands, an investment and consulting firm, where he focuses on finding the next crop of iconic brands such as Twice, Haus, Rightland, and many more.
Sharing his experience, Nik Sharma mentioned how his journey into social media marketing started pretty non-traditionally. At first, it was all about working with the local businesses and crazy cold emailing. These efforts eventually got him into working with the top celebrities of the industry. Pursuing his interest in marketing led him to San Francisco, where he ventured deeper into ad tech and programmatic advertising. This gave him a better understanding of how paid and organic marketing really worked. Nik went on to join Hint and later, VaynerMedia. All this, driven by his unquenchable curiosity.
Nik Sharma on ‘How Branding Fueled His Interests?’
For Nik, working at Hint was both fun and challenging since their flagship product was, well, water. Getting people off the bad habits of soda, juices, or Gatorade sounded good, but doing all that just by sitting behind a computer was tricky, yet fun! This is where branding came into play.
“It’s fun and exciting since it’s all about convincing people of vastly different mindsets and psychographic backgrounds about the benefits of a particular brand.”
- Nik Sharma
The results were commendable, which quickly came through social media comments and customer service emails. It was totally rewarding and fulfilling in every sense.
Working at VaynerMedia with Gary Vee, the star of social media marketing, was what molded Nik’s approach to influencing customers’ opinions in a positive way. Talking about Gary, Nik mentioned VaynerX, the holding company that controlled his other ventures. It was like the ‘parent’ or more like the ‘brain’ that orchestrated all his other operations, be it VaynerMedia, VaynerSports, Vayner Productions, Gallery Media Group, or any other company under the same umbrella.
“It’s like an incredible infrastructure that Gary has built around himself. Gary is himself the brand here. Every client they worked with, Gary was involved personally, and that’s quite insane”.
- Nik Sharma
Career Guide by Nik Sharma
Apart from being driven by curiosity, another thing that Nik believes helped him was his decision to shake off any kind of vulnerability. Nik says that there should be absolutely no shame in going up to anyone for suggestions or cold emailing influencers or industry leaders.
Another key perk of this is the relationships that help one grow. These are all organic. And this is true when dealing with brand founders or their investors or even with private equity firms. Valuing relationships must begin from an early age.
Leveraging the Power of Internet
The third thing that Nik says helped him was leveraging the power of internet. The internet is free and brimming with opportunities. Nowhere else is the chance to connect with so many people so easily. All a person has to do is get out there and express themselves honestly. This honesty and vulnerability can really pay off in the future.
Nik further adds that the Internet is brimming with knowledge, and it allows us to go directly to the source and acquire it from them. And that makes perfect sense.
Sharma Brands: The Idea and The Vision
Being in investing, advising, and marketing all along, Nik wanted to leverage his experiences, resources, and capabilities by doing something under the hood of his own brand. Nik believes that his work with a number of brands, from promoting their launch to scaling their growth, was the impetus behind the founding of Sharma Brands.
Breaking Down The DTC Model
Great Customer Experience
According to Nik, the DTC model fundamentally means delivering a great experience to the customer directly. The quality of this experience is what sets the standard for winning or losing in 2020. And the key to winning for the early wave of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands was all about being tactical with the media and understanding how to buy media. The second wave was about selling commoditized products, with the emphasis being on branding, aesthetics, community, and events. And this new wave is going to shape 2020 in terms of how people are only looking to buy products with specific value propositions for them.
In this regard, Nik brought up the case of Judy whose only real competitors today are the Red Cross and Triple A First Aid. For Judy, it doesn’t really need community or content marketing or Instagram promotion to sell its products because they are already so good at what they do. But for a leggings or a cookware brand or any other DTC brand, the competition is always tough in commoditized markets. Witnessing success in these categories is all about publicizing a reason to stand out among the crowd. This is where branding comes to the rescue.
Getting investments is another important criteria every company needs to watch out for. When it comes to investing in a new brand, investors mostly rely on their own backgrounds or histories to give them pattern recognition. And Nik makes these decisions based on their distribution and marketing. In the end, it all boils down to whether the brand has a unique voice or not. To succeed, a brand must have a (business) moat within distribution and be the one that’s not readily disturbed by the presence of a competitor.
To prove his point, Nik took the example of Brightland, a DTC brand that sells olive oil and had used the Tesla approach to marketing, right where you sell that high-end car and then over time, you get it down to the average end consumer. From retail, or from a food service, or a consumer standpoint, it is a killer approach.
If one thinks about the future of branding and commerce, Nik feels that the fusion of online and offline business models is really exciting. Branded content will be an overwhelming trend, predicts Nik. And from the advertising perspective, it’s mostly Facebook and Instagram ads, and it will be exciting to see where things go from here.
Breaking Down Nik Sharma’s Daily Routine
Nik isn’t a believer in static routine, per se, but likes to start his day at around 6:30 and hit a workout session by seven o'clock or eight o'clock. The workout sessions prepare him for the day and he even loves to turn these into quick, interesting meetings.
For Nik, Mondays and Thursdays are mostly about meeting clients, while on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he loves to stay back at home, just cranking away. On Fridays, Nik loves to meet or spend time with brands and people looking for advice. His weekends are even more variable.
Despite the work and pressure, Nik invests a lot of time and thought in personal care. According to him, the two most important things are sweating and sleeping. Getting a good 45 minutes to one hour of daily workout is a must. And so is getting at least eight hours of sleep. He is also very conscious about the food or beverages or the skincare brands he consumes. And Nik admits that since he started taking his personal care more seriously, his mind and body have been working a lot better.
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